Miguel on Free Access to Law in South America

Teresa M. Miguel, Esq., of Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library has posted The Digital Legal Landscape in South America: Government Transparency and Access to Information, on SSRN, in Legal Information and Technology eJournal. Here is the abstract:

The governments of ten South American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela) vary widely in the quantity and quality of free legal information each offers to its citizens. Each country has made a significant effort in providing basic legal texts, such as codes, laws and decrees, in a systematic, searchable, and reliable database. Jurisprudence of the courts, whose significance varies widely among these countries steeped in the civil law tradition, is often less accessible. Some countries have more means and better infrastructure than others which, naturally, is reflected in the quality of the databases, search engines, and archives. Most of these countries have enacted transparency laws to which all government entities are subjected. Countries with laws pertaining to transparency in order of strength of law are: Chile (2008), Peru (2002), Ecuador (2004), Uruguay (2008), Colombia (1985), Argentina (2003 decree), and Bolivia (2005 decree). These transparency laws do not only pertain to budget, fiscal responsibility, and political accountability, but also to free public access to legal information. The transparency laws from both Peru and Ecuador, for example, are entitled, Law of Transparency and Access to Information, and obligate government entities to be proactive in making legal information freely accessible.

In the following report, the transparency laws are briefly discussed at the beginning of each country report. The focus of this overall project, however, is not specifically on whether a country has laws governing transparency and access to information, but rather, whether a country is indeed making available to its citizens free, current, reliable, official, and authentic legal information in a way that is easy to find, access, obtain, and read. Supplementary information is also provided about how non-profit legal databases and commercial providers of legal information fit into each country’s digital legal landscape. Please note that unless otherwise indicated, all websites and documents are in the vernacular language, i.e. Spanish or Portuguese for Brazil.

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